HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 2441        FILED ON: 2/17/2021

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1436

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

_________________

PRESENTED BY:

David M. Rogers and Michael S. Day

_________________

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
Court assembled:

The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention in Massachusetts.

_______________

PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

Date Added:

David M. Rogers

24th Middlesex

2/17/2021

Michael S. Day

31st Middlesex

2/25/2021

David Paul Linsky

5th Middlesex

2/19/2021

Jack Patrick Lewis

7th Middlesex

2/22/2021

Lindsay N. Sabadosa

1st Hampshire

2/22/2021

Paul J. Donato

35th Middlesex

2/22/2021

Kay Khan

11th Middlesex

2/22/2021

Tram T. Nguyen

18th Essex

2/23/2021

Rob Consalvo

14th Suffolk

2/24/2021

Adrian C. Madaro

1st Suffolk

2/24/2021

Dylan A. Fernandes

Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket

2/25/2021

Steven C. Owens

29th Middlesex

2/25/2021

James J. O'Day

14th Worcester

2/25/2021

William C. Galvin

6th Norfolk

2/25/2021

Tommy Vitolo

15th Norfolk

2/25/2021

Kate Lipper-Garabedian

32nd Middlesex

2/26/2021

Tricia Farley-Bouvier

3rd Berkshire

2/26/2021

James K. Hawkins

2nd Bristol

2/26/2021

Paul McMurtry

11th Norfolk

2/26/2021

Natalie M. Higgins

4th Worcester

2/26/2021

Carlos González

10th Hampden

2/26/2021

Mindy Domb

3rd Hampshire

2/26/2021

Peter Capano

11th Essex

2/26/2021

Erika Uyterhoeven

27th Middlesex

2/26/2021

Sean Garballey

23rd Middlesex

2/26/2021

Richard M. Haggerty

30th Middlesex

2/26/2021

Michelle L. Ciccolo

15th Middlesex

2/26/2021

Steven Ultrino

33rd Middlesex

2/26/2021

Carmine Lawrence Gentile

13th Middlesex

2/26/2021

Christine P. Barber

34th Middlesex

3/2/2021

Jay D. Livingstone

8th Suffolk

2/26/2021

Thomas M. Stanley

9th Middlesex

3/7/2021

Danillo A. Sena

37th Middlesex

3/8/2021

Liz Miranda

5th Suffolk

3/8/2021

Mary S. Keefe

15th Worcester

3/8/2021

James B. Eldridge

Middlesex and Worcester

3/8/2021

Walter F. Timilty

Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth

3/9/2021

Michael P. Kushmerek

3rd Worcester

3/10/2021

Brian M. Ashe

2nd Hampden

3/11/2021

Sal N. DiDomenico

Middlesex and Suffolk

3/18/2021

Christina A. Minicucci

14th Essex

3/18/2021

Daniel R. Carey

2nd Hampshire

3/18/2021

Daniel J. Ryan

2nd Suffolk

3/19/2021

Jacob R. Oliveira

7th Hampden

3/23/2021

Patricia A. Duffy

5th Hampden

3/30/2021

Jessica Ann Giannino

16th Suffolk

4/5/2021

Brandy Fluker Oakley

12th Suffolk

4/6/2021

Patrick M. O'Connor

Plymouth and Norfolk

4/7/2021

Orlando Ramos

9th Hampden

4/10/2021

Natalie M. Blais

1st Franklin

4/11/2021

Mathew J. Muratore

1st Plymouth

4/14/2021

Ruth B. Balser

12th Middlesex

4/14/2021

Tami L. Gouveia

14th Middlesex

4/19/2021

Susannah M. Whipps

2nd Franklin

4/20/2021

Kevin G. Honan

17th Suffolk

5/6/2021

Antonio F. D. Cabral

13th Bristol

5/13/2021

Mike Connolly

26th Middlesex

5/17/2021

Paul W. Mark

2nd Berkshire

5/20/2021

Bud L. Williams

11th Hampden

6/3/2021

Jon Santiago

9th Suffolk

6/3/2021


HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 2441        FILED ON: 2/17/2021

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1436

By Messrs. Rogers of Cambridge and Day of Stoneham, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 1436) of David M. Rogers, Michael S. Day and others for legislation to establish a statewide right to counsel program for evictions to promote housing stability and prevent homelessness.  Housing.

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

_______________

In the One Hundred and Ninety-Second General Court
(2021-2022)

_______________

 

An Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention in Massachusetts.

 

Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to establish forthwith a statewide right to counsel program for evictions to promote housing stability and prevent homelessness and, in response to a housing emergency that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public safety and health.
 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

SECTION 1. Chapter 239 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following 4 sections:

Section 14.

For purposes of sections 15 and 16 the following terms shall have the following meanings:

“Advisory committee”, the committee established pursuant to section 15(g).

“Covered proceeding”, an action brought pursuant to chapter 239, chapter 139 section 19, or similar proceedings, including administrative proceedings to terminate a mobile or project-based housing subsidy or public housing tenancy.

“Designated organization”, a not-for-profit organization that is designated by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to contract to provide legal assistance for eligible individuals.

"Eligible individual”, a party in a covered proceeding who is an indigent: (i) tenant or occupant of any premises rented or leased for dwelling purposes; or (ii) owner-occupant of a 1-to-3-family dwelling that is their sole dwelling and located in the Commonwealth.

“Full legal representation”, ongoing legal representation provided by legal counsel in a designated organization to an eligible individual including all legal advice, advocacy, and assistance associated with representation. Full representation includes, but is not limited to, the filing of a notice of appearance on behalf of the eligible individual in a covered proceeding.

“Indigent”, a person who is: (i) receiving public assistance pursuant to: (1) aid to families with dependent children pursuant to chapter 118; (2) the emergency aid program for elderly and disabled residents pursuant to section 1 of chapter 117A; (3) a veterans’ benefits program; (4) Title XVI of the federal Social Security Act; (5) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, pursuant to 7 U.S.C. chapter 51; (6) refugee resettlement benefits; or (7) Medicaid, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1396, et seq.; or (ii) earning an income, after taxes, that is 80 per cent or less of the current area median income established annually by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development; or (iii) unable to pay the fees and costs of the covered proceeding in which the person is a party or is unable to do so without depriving said person or said person’s dependents of the necessities of life, including food, shelter and clothing.

“Legal counsel” or “counsel”, lawyer licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth.

“Partner attorney”, an attorney employed by or affiliated with a designated organization who agrees to provide full legal representation pursuant to this act.

“Right to Counsel Program”, a statewide right to counsel program to provide full legal representation to eligible individuals in covered proceedings to be funded by a specifically dedicated general court appropriation.

Section 15.

(a)There shall be a statewide Right to Counsel Program in eviction cases to effectuate the purposes of this act to be specifically funded by the general court and administered by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.

(b)With specifically designated state funding, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall establish a Right to Counsel Program to provide free legal assistance and full representation to eligible individuals in covered proceedings.

(c)The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall issue a request for proposal through a public notice for qualified organizations to submit proposals to become designated organizations. The notice must delineate an open and transparent process for approving requests with input from the advisory committee. All organizations seeking to become designated organizations shall have the right to apply for funding and must identify the geographic area in which they shall represent eligible individuals. A designated organization may contract with partner attorneys to provide legal assistance.

(d)Designated organizations shall: (i) have substantial expertise in housing law and landlord and tenant law and substantial experience furnishing free legal assistance to eligible individuals; (ii) have a demonstrated track record of serving the low-income community, (ii) identify the geographic area in which they shall provide legal representation; (iii) have a plan to reach and provide legal representation to income eligible persons with limited English proficiency; (iv) provide appropriate supervision and training; (v) incorporate paralegals, legal interns or law students, where possible, to be supervised by legal counsel and (vi) satisfy other criteria established the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation with input from the advisory committee. Nothing herein shall interfere with any legal counsel carrying out their professional responsibilities to their clients as established in the canons of ethics and the code of professional responsibility adopted by the supreme judicial court.

(e)The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall issue a request for proposal for a qualified legal aid organization to coordinate representation of eligible tenants statewide and a request for proposal for a qualified legal aid organization to coordinate representation of eligible owner-occupants. Such organizations shall provide programmatic support and programmatic advocacy in addition to convening statewide trainings and forums for cross-training of attorneys in order to effectuate the purpose of this act.

(f)The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall be responsible for exercising oversight, implementing fiscal controls, and for all data collection, deliverables, and ongoing programmatic evaluation.

(g)The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall appoint an advisory committee with fifteen members from diverse regions of the Commonwealth that includes, but is not limited to, low-income tenants, low-income owner-occupants, non-profit community-based organizations, statewide advocacy organizations, and municipal officials. Each member shall have a demonstrated commitment to homelessness prevention and housing stability. The advisory committee shall advise on matters and policies affecting the Right to Counsel Program and shall be convened by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation on a regular basis, but no less than twice a year.

Section 16.

(a)The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation shall submit, with input from the advisory committee, a form to be approved by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court shall be used to notify individuals of their potential eligibility for a right to legal counsel in covered proceedings. The supreme judicial court shall consider adopting other forms recommended by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, with input from the advisory committee, as needed.

(b) Lessors must include or attach the form approved by the supreme judicial court to the notice to quit and summons and complaint for covered proceedings. The trial court shall notify lessors about the required form and lessors’ potential eligibility for legal counsel pursuant to this act. The form must be posted on the trial court’s website.

(c) If an eligible tenant, occupant or owner-occupant did not receive the approved form required pursuant to this section or legal counsel does not have sufficient time to file responsive pleadings, there shall be a reasonable continuation of the proceedings so that the tenant, occupant or owner-occupant can obtain legal assistance to prepare their case.

(d) The supreme judicial court shall approve a written waiver form for the trial court to inform eligible individuals about the right to legal counsel in court proceedings in order for eligible individuals to knowingly and voluntarily waive the provisions of this act.

SECTION 2. The general court shall appropriate funding for a Right to Counsel Program in the Judiciary budget through a specifically dedicated line-item to effectuate the purposes of this act.

SECTION 3. The provisions of this act, unless otherwise expressly provided, shall take effect immediately upon passage.